Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Rude Awakening

I had a good Spring.  Good showing at Sole of the City 10k, longest distances in years, and finally a "big race" finish at the Wild Half in May.

I had a bad Summer and Fall.  I just haven't had the willpower to make running a priority with the crazy hours I've worked and unlike 2011, I'm not coming off a great Summer.  I don't have that "cushion" of mileage that let me nail my long run even if it was my only run of the week.

So, while my wife was waiting to start her 13.1-mile leg of the NCR Trail Marathon Relay (her 11th half and 4th this year), I bonked on a three mile run that took me over the famed Mason Dixon line.

I will always be there cheering for Chris at the finish, but watching everyone finish made me want to be out there again.

I recall in 2010, when I ran the last leg of a marathon relay among people who were at miles 19-26.2 and feeling better than me.  It was just a bad day, but it made me realize I needed to train harder to run the half marathon that I was signed up for a month from them (I ended up w/a PR) and it made me really consider a full marathon for the first time. It was a rude awakening, and so was today.  Time to join a gym. Time to get out there after work, even if it's just a mile or two.  Time to push the "new" legs to the limit and see what they've got.

Time to be the runner I was before.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Eye of the Tiger

I've spent 11 years of my careers at one of the leading sales effectiveness consulting companies in the world; a small company with a big impact in its marketplace and a highly-skilled team of which I am proud to be a part.  For most of my career,  I have been involved in development of customized training programs for our clients, but about a year ago, I moved into a specialized sales support role.

This week was my company's second national sales meeting of the year, and I came to it feeling like I needed to prove myself.  In our previous national sales meeting, in Boca Raton in January, I had been responsible for a portion of the meeting that, to put it mildly, was not well-received. I had written a series of training activities for our own sales force that very accurately mirrored their real-life client situations, but were judged to be very similar in focus to previous years' activities and not a good use of time.

At this Summers' meeting, I was asked to co-deliver a presentation introducing four new solutions. Although I have built credibility through my client and internal work, I felt like it was important for me to make a good presentation, especially with our new CEO; my new supervisor; a previous supervisor who has been a trusted mentor to me for many years; and of course our whole sales force present.

My problem?  Although I collaborate extensively with clients over the phone and less frequently in person but enough to be very confident, but I had somehow never had to deliver a PowerPoint presentation to a live audience, despite being almost 40 years old and having worked in the sales performance consulting world for 11 years with a 5-year "break" in the middle of that in knowledge management and sales support at a very large management and technology consulting firm, and I was definitely feeling out of my comfort zone.

I had a 9:00am presentation, the second of the day, and so I opened with a few jokes -- wrapped within a brief introduction of myself and my career for the newer executives and sales reps -- to warm up the room and diffuse some of my own nervousness.  I'll be honest, I brought the house down.  As I moved into the informative portion of presentation, I could definitely feel some nervousness returning, but I think I did well enough and I got a lot of positive feedback.  It's definitely something that I'm happy to have gotten through, and it will be less scary next time, but I know there's some for improvement:

1. I prepared my speakers' notes well in advance, but I wish that I had taken some time to practice in front of the room I would be presenting in.  I'm not sure if that would have been possible this time or not.

2. I need to make my slides less wordy, so that I can look to them to briefly remind myself of my place if I need to, but not have to either "wing it" in how I summarize or look at my notes (which I had on my Kindle) as much as I did.

3.  I had my speakers notes on my Kindle, as mentioned above, thinking I'd look a little cooler up there with a tablet rather than printed notes.  I think old-school note cards would have been a better option than either.

A friend gave me some delivery skills pointers that I think will help me do a better job next time in calming down my body language to both appear and help myself feel less nervous, but I think it was really good for a first timer.  The positive is that I felt exactly like I did when I was a 24 or 25 year-old junior consultant on needs assessment calls with clients.  This is now a situation where I'm completely comfortable and confident, and I know I can get there in my presentation skills as well.

And, last but not least, running.  I've not done well at getting enough miles in the July and August heat, but now that summer is winding down, it's time to get serious again.  I had a very good four-miler on Saturday, and I ran 3 miles on Tuesday morning (on the hotel gym treadmill due to pouring rain) and three miles yesterday with a coworker in downtown Philadelphia, heading from our Center City hotel down the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum and back.

Of course we ran up the Art Museum steps.  Adrian!!!!!!!!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaadrian!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Death From Above

We got Domo a cat tree.  We're not sure if it was a good idea, yet.

I, for one, welcome our new feline overlord.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Two Flags

After spending a lot of time over the past week reading, hearing, and arguing about this flag:

I'm glad it's this flag that flies victorious today. 

There's still lots of inequality in this country, but this is a step forward, and years from now, when society hasn't collapsed because of same-sex marriage, people will look back on this day and wonder why it took so long. Unless society collapses because of something else, probably cats, in the meantime.

As for that other flag, give me two beers, a sleepy orange kitten, my favorite Orioles hat, and a computer with MS Paint and I can make a "Southern Pride" flag that's NOT associated with an armed insurrection against the United States of America.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Just Because...

It's 10:00 at night.

The temperature has dropped into the 50s.

The Orioles stink again.

And there are races to train for.

So I found the hilliest three miles I could in Manchester and Mt. Wolf, and I ran them.

And it was great.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Wild Half, Wildwoods NJ

I'm having trouble putting into words my experiences at the 2015 Wild Half Marathon (but let me write a long, rambling blog post about it, nonetheless), because it's an accomplishment that still feels like a setback.  The accomplishment is that I finished my first half marathon since 2010, marking a significant step forward in my often-derailed comeback; and the setback is how I felt during the race, which I was clearly not as ready for as I had thought that I was.

Chris and I arrived in Wildwood on Friday afternoon, going from our hotel, the Beach Bungalow at the Blue Palms, to the Adventure Pier in time for packet pickup.  We then went for dinner at Capt'n Jack's Island Grille, on the Boardwalk, which featured one of the boardwalk's few liquor licenses, excellent fries, and good burgers and sandwiches.  After dinner, Chris and I retired rather quickly to our room, exhausted from the long travel day and in bed by 9:30.

We slept in till about 10:30 on Saturday, had breakfast (muffins that we had packed to save money) in our room, and then hit the boardwalk.  We did some shopping, picking up a few Christmas ornaments; had a small lunch at Capt'n Jack's again; and played miniature golf (a rare win for Chris) before heading back to our rooms to relax for a while before heading out to an early dinner with some new friends at Little Italy.  After a delicious dinner, Chris and I headed to the Old City Pub for a single pre-race beer, one of our longstanding race traditions, and then back to the room to get our race gear ready and turn in early.

I find the laying out of the gear the night before to be very soothing.
Race Day
Race day dawned warm and extremely humid, consistent with the weather forecasts.  We knew at that time that this race would be a struggle and not much fun. It didn't help that the bed in our room was very firm, and so neither of us had slept especially well and Chris' back (with her two herniated disks) was quite sore.

Ready for the race?  Not as much as I thought.
Ready to make dumb pre-race faces?  Of course! 

Still, we were as ready as we could be, and we kept to our Jeff Galloway-inspired plan of half-mile run intervals with a minute of walking in between, as the course went south on Ocean Avenue into Wildwood Crest (the southern part of Wildwood) before turning and heading back north on the Wildwood Crest bike path and the entire length of the Wildwood boardwalk.  We were hot, it was disgustingly humid, but we felt relatively ok and were sticking to plan. 

At about the four-mile mark, we left the boardwalk and continued in the same direction up JFK Beach Drive (I didn't know any of these street names at the time, I found a map with mile markers here) before making a series of turns that took the course in a more due-northerly direction through North Wildwood.

After the sixth mile, I felt that the course became more difficult, as we crossed a bridge over Gateway Sound and then just after the mile 7 marker another bridge taking us out to Mosquito Island.  It's really called Nummy Island, but I think my description of this swampy landmass is more apt.  During this stretch of the race, we began to struggle more and more with pain:  Chris' back and hips, and my right knee, which was very sore on the outside.  We made the turn shortly before completing 8 miles, and headed back over those bridges, walking the inclines at this point, my right knee and Chris' back and hips hurting badly at this point.

We made it to mile 10, back in North Wildwood, at which point we were walking more than running.  Every mile seemed longer than the next, until we were back on the boardwalk with a little over a mile to go.  At Garfield Ave, we turned off the boardwalk and then made a left on Ocean toward the finish.  The misery had ended.

The positives:  We made it.  The comeback continues.  No compartment syndrome symptoms.

The negatives:  The race just didn't go how we hoped it would. A possibly new injury or recurrence of ITBS.

I was internally kicking myself (with my non-sore leg!) through the last few miles of the race, but after further reflection, I think the positives clearly outweigh the negatives.  We both know that we rushed our training for this race, and I know that while I do my stretching and strength exercises after every run, I have to be more consistent in doing them on my "off" days (my knee injury felt to me like the return of the ITBS that I experienced in 2011.  I know how to manage this), and, to not lose sight of the big picture:  this was the longest distanced I'd completed in almost four years and my longest time out on a course since the Philadelphia Marathon that same year.  As recently as February, I didn't think a half marathon was something I could train for anymore, and it was GREAT to after almost four years to finally be a full participant in a "big" race and not just a spectator.  I am proud of Chris and myself for pushing through pain, in conditions we both despise running in, to finish the race, and I am thankful for her for pacing me (and putting up with me) during such a long race in which I didn't feel good.  Our accomplishment is not taken away by walking more than we wanted or by a sore knee or aching back.

But, I can see that my 10-miler of two weeks ago gave me confidence that was not warranted.  I was not prepared to run a long distance in such hot, humid conditions, and it showed.  I need to train more methodically and train in the heat, I need to lose weight, and I need to get in more l0+ mile runs to determine whether my knee is ok.  My plan going forward is to take it a bit easy with running the next few weeks, which are insanely busy, but to try to get at least one double-digit distance run in during each of the next 5 months with shorter runs on weekdays, whether or not I actually do a half marathon in the Fall.  I think that if I can do this and the legs are feeling good, that this would prepare me to train up to make an attempt at the Shamrock Marathon in March 2016, and that if the legs don't feel good, it would help me to figure out if the current knee issue is really a problem, and/or if compartment syndrome is truly addressed.  For what it's worth, my knee felt dramatically better the next day.

My quest for a revenge marathon took a significant step forward with this finish, but there is still a long way to go.

Despite a challenging race, the comeback continues!

Race Review.
I'm not sure if I would run this one again, just because of the likelihood of having to run it in the warm, humid conditions that I despise.  That said, I think Morey's Piers, CGI Racing, and the Wildwood Community did a great job with this event.  The course was clearly marked; the boardwalk was at least partially closed to pedestrians, giving runners a clear path; there were ample water stations with unfailingly friendly volunteers; and the experience at the finish line was very positive (no running out of medals or food, beer garden still open).  Wildwood is a fun destination and the race entry, which includes admission to the Morey's Piers amusement parks, is a good value. I'm sure this event was established as a way to introduce more people to the Wildwood area and all the fun it has to offer.   It definitely did that, and I will have to write in more detail in another post about the fun places we found to eat. Everything that the organizers could control, they did an excellent job with.  I likely would have had a much more positive experience in the race itself if I had been in the condition I was in 2011, when I ran longer distances in warm, humid conditions several times a month.  That's not in any way the race organizers' fault, of course!

If I could change one thing, I would add an expo or some merchandise.  This was my first "big race" since 2011, and I would have liked to have been able to buy a hat or windbreaker.  A friend said that there had been a small expo in a previous year, and theorized there was none this year because another organization had rented the convention center.  For the record, no expo was promised in ANY of the promotional materials or the event's website.  I'd probably also move the event to April, when cooler weather is a possibility, but in this case that would put this event up against several other big regional races and would mean, I suspect, that businesses on the boardwalk would be almost completely closed.  Again, I don't want my own personal weather bias to detract from my feelings that this was a very well-organized, well-run event.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wild Half Marathon

Forgotten empires,
Lost victories long past.
Every time I bloomed again,
I thought it was the last.
Then something crazy happens
and BOOM!...I'm doing the victory dance.
We came...we came...we came through blood and fire.
-Van Halen, "Blood and Fire"